THE HERO'S JOURNEY
by Pati McDermott, CHT
In 1948 Joseph Campbell wrote what many think to be his greatest work, The Hero With A Thousand Faces. He extensively researched and compared ancient mythology from every culture and found that all of these cultures and myths had major similarities.
One of those similarities was the transformational experience that everyone goes through towards becoming a whole and contributing member of their society: The Hero's Journey. He described in his book, in great detail, the journeys of many characters, some known to us still today, such as Buddha and Jesus. His research included the ancient Goddess religions, Nigerian legends, Taoism, Russian folklore, the Egyptian Pantheon, Eskimo myths, Aztec, Native American, Hebrew, Welsh, and Teutonic, to name a few. Although his book is from a somewhat male perspective this work was ground breaking and spectacular. The book is, at the very least, interesting from the perspective of storytelling alone. His conclusions are unshakable given the constant thread of similarities that exist between all of the cultures and myths that he studied. He found that everyone goes through phases in their lives and anyone who becomes a hero of any kind must go through each of the stages and complete them before successfully completing that journey.
In 1986 Carol Pearson wrote, The Hero Within. She picked up where Joseph Campbell left off. Her book, written from a more feminist perspective, clarifies the six archetypes that Joseph Campbell describes in The Hero With A Thousand Faces. Carol Pearson's book is more contemporary and applies Joseph Campbell's work to a more present day context. One could easily benefit from reading either or both books.
Robert Dilts is a renowned leader and innovator in the NLP world community. (Neuro-Linguistic Programming is a powerful way of changing or enhancing your thinking processes.) Robert is one of the founders of NLP University at UC Santa Cruz as well as an international NLP business consultant. He includes the work of both Carol Pearson and Joseph Campbell in his trainings and presentations to express the importance of completing the stages of The Hero's Journey, and uses the archetypes as a means of healing and working through problems and difficulties. I have studied the work of all three of these people, and have been very moved personally by what I have discovered in myself as a result of that learning. I am very excited to be sharing that knowledge and mentoring that journey with you.
THE HERO'S JOURNEY
1. Hearing a calling.
Hearing a calling can be in the form of a problem that won't go away and must be faced, a decision to do work that is more expressive of your true nature, or the beginning of anything new such as an exercise plan or a healthy diet change. It might be a new attitude or a different way of thinking about something. The calling can be of any size and dimension.
2. Accepting the calling.
You can hear a calling but you get to decide whether or not to answer it. It is your choice whether you want to take the risk to change careers or whether you really want to get out of bed an hour earlier every morning to go running before work. If you choose to answer the calling then you are beginning on a Hero's Journey.
3. Crossing a threshold.
Crossing the threshold means entering into new territory. It's facing the unfamiliar and it usually means being willing to face it alone, at least initially. This is the phase that involves taking some risk, swallowing your fear, and going into the unknown.
4. Finding a guardian or mentor.
In the ancient myths the guardian sometimes appears in a dream or is an animal guide. In other words, this guardian can be an aspect of your own unconscious mind. If you are starting a new exercise program you might want to find a videotape to follow or a personal trainer. For a career change look to someone else who has done what you wish to achieve. For children the mentor is usually a parent or another adult. Even ducklings learn to walk by watching other ducks.
5. Facing a challenge.
This is also called "Facing A Demon" or "Facing the Dragon." Everyone is tested in some way on their Hero's Journey. This challenge might be your own shortcomings, a disadvantage, a problem, an adversary (who becomes the teacher), or a lack of knowledge.
6. Transforming the demon.
This means transforming the challenge/problem/demon/dragon into a resource or advisor by either:
7. Completing the task for which you have been called.
This is the step of success in what you have chosen to take on. It means that you have reached your goal that was set in Step 1. Success does not necessarily look the way you thought it would. All the other steps towards completion form and re-form the outcome.
This can also be the stage of failure, which is not actually failure but another form of learning and growing that has its own contribution to your development. If you have succeeded at everything you have tried then you haven't stretched yourself far enough to find your full potential.
8. Finding the way back home.
This step is very important. You have to take what you have learned, gained, and accomplished back to your people. You have to integrate what you have gained and make it part of the success of your community. This means sharing what you learned, helping someone else who is on a journey like the one you just completed, teaching, or giving back in some way. All of society benefits when you grow. Your success is everyone's success. You become a role model, a mentor, a guide or a teacher for others or, in the case of a doctor, you become a healer in your community. If this step is not included in your Hero's Journey your success in Step 7 becomes mysteriously thwarted until you find a way to share what you have gained with the people who need your gifts or helped you to get to where you are. Society must benefit from your Heroic Journey.
Pati McDermott, CHT
© 2004 by Pati McDermott, CHT